“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. Now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said, putting in place a raft of sanctions including export controls that “will impose a heavy cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.”
Biden said the new sanctions also include four Russian banks, “corrupt billionaires” and their families close to the Kremlin.
He announced a new deployment of ground and air forces to NATO’s eastern flank, even as he reiterated that US forces would not be involved in a direct conflict in Ukraine.
“Our forces are not and will not participate in the conflict,” he said. Our forces will not go to Europe to fight in Ukraine but will defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the East.
Biden addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House, his first public appearance since the Russian offensive began late Wednesday. In written statements, Biden called the Russian attack a “premeditated war” and vowed to hold the state accountable.
The new sanctions were chosen from a list of options that include restrictions on financial institutions, a ban on the export of technology and a ban on targeting members of Putin’s inner circle.
Biden, aware of rising gas prices in the United States, said he is working to limit the impact of the new sanctions on energy prices. He said that the United States is ready to release barrels of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve along with its allies.
“I know this is hard and Americans are really getting hurt,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to reduce the pain the American people feel at the gas pumping.”
Biden’s sanctions now aim to punish, rather than prevent, Putin’s actions by going after Russia’s economy, military capabilities, and those closest to the Russian president. However, the extent to which they can alter Putin’s decision-making in the future remains an open question.
Before speaking, Biden consulted with leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations about the sanctions they plan to impose, hoping to coordinate a response plotting unity among the Western allies. US and European officials spoke by phone overnight through Thursday to coordinate their responses.
In a joint statement following the virtual meeting, the G7 leaders said Putin had “reimposed war on the European continent”.
“He has put himself on the wrong side of history,” the leaders wrote.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed Thursday morning to “weaken Russia’s economic base and capacity for modernization” in the wake of Russia’s “barbaric attack” on Ukraine.
“We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop Russian banks’ access to European financial markets,” she said.
A White House official said Biden also convened a National Security Council meeting Thursday morning to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
Biden’s top national security aides held emergency meetings late Wednesday as Putin announced his plan for a “military operation” against Ukraine in a televised address. The speech was broadcast in Russia at the same time the United Nations Security Council was holding its meeting to condemn Moscow’s behaviour, catching some delegates by surprise.
Meeting in the West Wing, Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other senior officials prepared a statement from Biden condemning the Russian attack as “unprovoked and unjustified.”
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will lead to massive loss of life and human suffering,” Biden wrote in the statement released at 10:25 p.m. ET as the explosions began in Kiev.
An hour later, Biden was on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who reached out to the White House while his country was under siege.
“He has asked me to call on world leaders to speak out against President Putin’s blatant aggression, and to stand by the people of Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement afterward. He said the United States and its partners were planning to “impose severe sanctions on Russia.”
This story and title were updated with additional developments on Thursday.
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